Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 6, pp 883–898 | Cite as

Doing Gender in Sex and Sex Research

  • Ine VanwesenbeeckEmail author
Invited Essay


Gender is central to sexuality, and vice versa, but there are a number of difficulties with the treatment of gender in sex research. Apparently, it is hard to find a balance between two conflicting needs. First, obviously, it is necessary to make distinctions between women and men, for political as well as research-technical and theoretical reasons. A second requirement, at odds with the first one, is the necessity to understand gender and its relation to sexuality and the body as much more complex than simplistically referring to two sets of individuals. This is all the more necessary when one realizes the possible drawbacks of exaggerating the differences between the sexes (in particular when they are biologically explained), because of stereotyping, stigmatizing, and expectancy confirmatory processes. This essay identifies and discusses 10 difficulties in the treatment of gender in sex research, reflects on their origins, and reviews theory and evidence with the aim to (1) consider the relative strength of gender/sex as an explanatory variable compared to other factors and processes explaining differences between men and women on a number of sexual aspects, (2) inform an understanding of gender and its relation to sexuality as an ongoing, open-ended, multi-determined, situated, interactional process, with the body as a third player, and (3) argue in favor of a nuanced, well-balanced treatment of gender in sex research.


Gender Heterosexuality Sex differences Social interaction 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rutgers Nisso GroepUtrechtThe Netherlands

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